Diwali The Festival of Lights

Diwali is festival of light, celebrated all over the indian subcontinent by people of various faiths, specially in Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Significance of Diwali in Jainism

by Pramod M. Jain

Although Diwali is a major Hindu festival in India, it has special significance for the Jains. In the month of Kartika, Krashna paksh, during swati nakshatra, at the time of dawn, Bhagvan Mahavir discarded the body and the bondage of all Karmas, at Pavapuri and attained Moksha or liberation from cycle of birth and death. Thus we celebrate Diwali with lights shining the nirvana of Lord Mahavir

It is the day of Nirvana (enlightenment) Kalyanaka (last one of 5 Kalyanaks of a Tirthankar-Garbh, Birth, Tap, Gyan and Moksha) of Lord Mahavir. Gautam Swami, the chief Ganadhar, who had done the true worship of Lord Mahavir, got the Omniscience-the ultimate knowledge on the next day, after the Nirvana of Lord Mahavir. In the absence of Mahavir Swami, he lamented so much that his soul became free from all the bondages of Karmas.

The New Year day The first day of the month of Kartik, i.e. the next day after Diwali is known as the New Year Day. People exchange greetings with each other and convey their best wishes for the ensuing year.Jains observe Diwali in a manner that is vastly different from the way in which it is celebrated by the Hindus. Austerity which is associated with every Jain custom is also a prominent feature of their Diwali celebrations.

How do the Jains celebrate Diwali?

On Dhan Terash or the first day of Diwali, the Jain business communities perform a ceremony related to Dhan or money and begin their books of accounts afresh. They temporarily stop all business transactions subsequent to this Puja for eight days.

On Kali Chaudash the majority of Jains undertake fasting for two days in succession, and this practice is also followed by women. They sit and perform Jaap, which is the counting of rosary, at night. Some devotes listen to Diwaleekalp or sacred Jain discourses. Some Jain devotees practice Paushadh or behave in a manner similar to a monk for two days.

On Amavasya Day people visit Jain temples and exchange greetings with each other. They dole out clothes, give aid and at night perform Jaap.On the second day of the New Year, Jains take out grand processions with the idol of Lord Mahavir. The day is also referred to as Bhai Beej.

On the third day of New Year it is a customary for the Jains to adorn Jain temples and Jain idols with flowers. On the fourth day of the New Year, people belonging to the Jain sect visit temples and worship their gods in accordance with their customs and beliefs. The fifth day of New Year is also known as Gyan Panchami or Shrut Panchmi. People belonging to the Jain sect worship "Gyan" with dissimilar materials, sweets as well as fruits. With a view to attaining pure knowledge, Jap or the counting of rosary is performed by them.

Diwali devoid of firecrackers Hence Diwali for the Jains is somewhat dissimilar from the one performed by the Hindus. Jains do not indulge in the practice of exploding firecrackers. They do not consider it fit to indulge in wasteful spending on Diwali festival. They are of the opinion that charity and donations are more important in comparison to the bursting of crackers which according to them is a complete wastage of wealth and can be put to good use for the benefit of mankind.

Like the Hindus, Jains too renovate and repaint their houses to welcome the festivities associated with Diwali but they refrain from spending too much. Jains commemorate Diwali by indulging in fast, worshipping the Tirthanakaras' images, adorning the Jain temples, and performing Jaaps or chanting of hymns in praise of Lord Mahavir.
Mr. Pramod M. Jain is a Civil Engineer from IIT, Bombay, residing in Bangkok for past 20 years and the views expressed here are his own. He is President of IIT Alumni, Thailand Chapter. He is also one of founding members of Digamber Jain Federation. He is President of M/s A. G. Union Ltd.. This company owns a Grade "A" office building, Liberty Square, on Silom Road. Email id:


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Diwali festivities light up Trafalgar Square

The historic Trafalgar Square in came alive with the sights and sounds of India on Sunday as thousands of people gathered to witnessed the annual Diwali spectacle organised by the Mayor of London.

For most of the time during the celebrations, the enthusiastic audience - both British Asians and hundreds of tourists - braved rain to enjoy Indian food and music. The event was a celebration of an Indian festival with Indian themes, but had a hybrid feel to it as east met west and Bollywood dances mixed with American hip-hop.

Prominent among the songs that people danced to were from films such as "Chak De India", "Dhoom" and "Bunty Aur Babli". A Latin American woman evoked much applause as she danced to the popular number, "Kajra re..".

Organisers put up 'diyas' (earthen lamps) and lanterns in the fountains in the square while some participating groups distributed red boxes of Indian sweets. The event, that included Indian dances such as garba and bharatnatyam, ran from midday Sunday until 8 pm.

The participating groups included Academy of Punjabi Heritage, Angel Dance School; Apsara Dancers; B4U; BAPS Swaminarayan School; Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University; Explosive Dhol 'n Dance, Manchester; Francis Cardoso and Co; Ishira; ISKCON; Oshwal Association of UK; Sai School of Harrow; Sapnay School of Dance; Karma from Imperial College; Dinesh Pandit; Shama Group; Shree Kutch Patel Leva Community; Shri Academy of Dance; Sujata Banerjee Kathak School; Sunrise Radio.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said: "Diwali is an important occasion for London's Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, and represents the power of good to triumph over evil a theme that has relevance for all of London's communities, because it signifies the value of co-operation and mutual respect between peoples of differing faiths and backgrounds. On this joyous occasion, I wish everyone a happy and prosperous Diwali."

Trafalgar Square, in the heart of London, is one of the city's most vibrant open spaces dotted with statues and fountains. Home to the towering Nelson's Column that commemorates British victory in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, the square is rich in history and provides a platform for artistic performances and events.

From Hindustan Times

Saturday, November 3, 2007

US house of representatives passes resolution honouring Diwali

30 Oct 2007, 0918 hrs IST,PTI

WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives has for the first time passed a resolution recognising the "religious and historical significance" of Diwali.

The House Resolution 747, passed by an overwhelming vote of 358 to 0 (with 66 members abstaining), "is the first time the US Congress has ever passed a resolution in honour of Diwali", said Joe Wilson, the co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.

"I am pleased that this legislation recognising the religious and historical significance of the festival of Diwali, has been brought to the floor today for consideration," the Republican from South Carolina, who was among the sponsors of the bill, said in a statement.

"Celebrated by the people of India, the Indian Diaspora and the nearly two million Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains in the US, Diwali is a five-day festival held in the fall that celebrates the values of kinship, knowledge, and goodness," Wilson said.

The festival signifies the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. This is commonly represented by individuals lighting oil lamps and placing them outside their homes.

"My resolution acknowledges the international, religious, and historical importance of the festival of Diwali as well as the religious diversity in India, the United States, and throughout the world. It shows our support for the strong and growing partnership and dialogue in international efforts between the United States and India," he said.

Lastly, it recognises the importance of Indian Americans -- a strong and vibrant immigrant community, he added.